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67 miles W. of Denver, 114 miles NW of Colorado Springs, 23 miles E. of Vail

Breckenridge, founded in 1859, and its neighbors throughout Summit County comprise a major outdoor recreation center, with skiing in winter and fishing, hiking, and mountain biking in summer. But the area actually offers much more, with a number of historical attractions, good shopping opportunities, fine restaurants, and some interesting places to stay. The town of Breckenridge (elevation 9,603 ft.) is a good place to base yourself, as the entire Victorian core of this 19th-century mining town has been carefully preserved, with colorfully painted shops and restaurants occupying the old buildings, most dating from the 1880s and 1890s.

Most of the mountain towns that surround the area's excellent ski resorts -- Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper, Keystone, and Loveland -- were barely on the map in the 1880s, when the rest of the state was laying claim to its stake of history. Breckenridge, however, was a prosperous mining town in 1887 when the largest gold nugget ever found in Colorado, "Tom's Baby," was unearthed there. It weighed 13 pounds, 7 ounces, and is now in the Colorado History Museum in Denver. Today these communities are strictly in the tourism business and fill to capacity during peak seasons. Breckenridge, for example, has a year-round population of only 2,800 people, but swells to almost 34,000 during its top tourism times.